In the Creative Zone – What’s Your Pre-Painting Routine?

Fellow artists share how they get into the creative zone. 

Having the mind of an artist means that even when you’re not actively making art, you’re probably thinking about it. The thoughts can be intentional, such as when you’re planning your next painting, or they can come from seemingly out of nowhere, like a gift of an idea.

Pursuing those ideas is what makes us different from the only-dreamers, and you probably know that means putting the work in. Having a routine for creating art can make it helpful to give it the dedication you desire, the dedication it deserves.

As a writer and a maker, when it’s time for me to get into the creative zone I start with the setting. I often retreat to my studio cabin, where I set the lighting just right, light some incense or a candle, and choose music that helps me concentrate. Although it’s a private space, sometimes I still wear headphones because they block out all other sounds, allowing me to create with laser focus.

How do you get into the creative zone?

Cherie Dawn Haas, Editor of Realism Today, during an annual RealismLive online art conference
Cherie Dawn Haas, Editor of Realism Today, during an annual RealismLive online art conference

We Asked, Artists Answered: What’s your pre-painting routine?

Continue reading to be inspired, and use the comments section below to share your pre-painting routine!

Elayne Kuehler:
Walking into my studio!

Isabel Oliver:
Saying: “Whatever, it doesn’t have to be perfect”
To really believe it is another thing, but it helps.

Atelje Ayin:
It used to be just coffee, but now it’s tea instead. I put my colors on my palette and start.

Rinke Slotegraaf:
Procrastination and more procrastination, followed by self-doubt, and then asking myself, what do I have to lose?

Annelise Vorster Meyer:
Just walking into my studio. I love the light, the smell, the paint. It literally begs me to paint!

Nengei Joseph Alexander:
Setting up my palette, slowly and deliberately, keeping the goobers off the end of the paint tubes, and mixing those first colors.

Nanci France-Vaz*:
When I awaken, I have a silent meditation and visualization of what my goals are for the day. I create a to-do list in my calendar and try to stay on schedule even if I do not have an exhibit or commission. I think of painting as a full-time job and in order to complete work in a timely fashion, I have to stay the course just like I did when I was a competitive gymnast executing routines for competition.

Mindset is key for me. If it is warm outside in spring, summer, or early fall, I get on my bike and head down to the boardwalk to do an 11-mile bike ride. It sounds like a long distance, but it is only an hour’s ride. I don’t stop, I keep going. While I am getting my body into circulation, I meditate on gratefulness and thankfulness for all the accolades and good things that have come my way. I ask for my angel, I do have a female angel there with me, and I include her as well as god, the universe, and my dear Ted who passed. He taught me about the law of attraction and always said, if you are a master, you believe it in your heart. If negative chatter comes into your thinking, think about something positive and don’t repeat the loops you don’t want to happen.

I ask for signs to guide me…they always show up. Whatever I want to bring in my life, I say thank you because it already is. Law of attraction: align yourself with those who are already where you want to be and model them. Believe it already materialized by visualization.

This is what I do everyday morning and most importantly at night. It’s how I can stay motivated, inspired to create, and in the zone for execution and completion. We can all talk about what we want, but we have to execute that plan into reality.

Modern Renaissance Painter Nanci France-Vaz,
Modern Renaissance Painter Nanci France-Vaz,

Louise Sackett:
Put my feet on the floor and go to the loo!

Michele Norman:
Now, to be honest…the only way for me to get in the zone is by showing up and painting, it’s the act of working that slowly gets me there.

Natalia Nikitina:
Set my palette and look around for what inspires me and why and ask God to help me make sense out of all I feel and see.

Kimberly Rossiter:
I have to have a neat and organized studio before I start painting. By the time I am done, it looks like a bomb exploded.

Giorgione Fine Art:
Cleaning my house so there’s nothing else pulling my focus, then preparing ideas and supplies.

Karen Cooper:
On studio painting days (with Iowa weather, that’s all winter), I do a 30-minute warm-up drill, a concept that comes from the Jeffrey Watts Gesture Portraits video. Live models seem to be plentiful at the Watts Atelier, not so much in central Iowa – I have to stay with photo references of people I have come across.

Jeffrey is strict about the 30-minute time allotment but in my studio, there are days when it’s more than 30 minutes. I’ve used this drill long enough that I have multi-boxes of 5×7-inch panels with faces on them – enough for two solo exhibits coming in 2024!

in the creative zone; Artist Karen Cooper
Artist Karen Cooper,; “On plein air painting days, I just scribble in a sketchbook.”

Wendy Rose:
I find, since I started yoga and meditation, I am the most creative I’ve ever been!

Denise Hughes Granger-Kerbs:
Setting up my workstation for easy flow and then I Pray 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻 because He gave me this extraordinary gift and He is my strength!

Tabitha Thorne:
Watching everyone leave the house so I can be alone.

Michele Norman:
Pray, take the dog out, call my sister, coffee…paint.

Ellen Elizabeth Milinich:

Laura Pawlik:

Bob Gregoire:
Color mixing … building my palette.

*Nanci France Vaz is both an artist and a storyteller through her portrait paintings. Her 2023 Realism Live demo was titled “Imagine” and focused on creating an illusion of reality for the “imaginative portrait.” Nanci used a photo reference of her model, who is a singer/songwriter on the road. Their intention was “bohemian spirit,” inspired by Nanci’s current solo show at Dacia Gallery (NYC).

Left: Detail of the painting; Right: Photo reference
Left: Detail of Nanci’s painting for her Realism Live demo; Right: Photo reference


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